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10 NBA prospects who will make an immediate impact

Yardbarker logo Yardbarker 6/20/2019 Brett Koremenos, Yardbarker
a man holding a basketball: From left: Cameron Johnson of North Carolina, Ja Morant of Murray State and Keldon Johnson of Kentucky. © USA Today images: David Butler (Morant) and Jay Bickerstaff From left: Cameron Johnson of North Carolina, Ja Morant of Murray State and Keldon Johnson of Kentucky.

Some prospects selected in Thursday's NBA Draft will be two years from being two years away. The 2019 draft class, of course, will have players who will make an immediate impact. Here are 10 who should make meaningful contributions as rookies.

Zion Williamson, Duke

With his remarkable athleticism and slashing style, this 6-foot-7, 285-pounder will be a scoring threat from the get-go. Key note: Over the past six years, three players drafted first overall have had forgettable first seasons. Injuries derailed Markelle Fultz (2017) and Ben Simmons (2016), who was shut down because of a foot injury. Anthony Bennett, the UNLV forward taken with the first pick in the 2013 draft, averaged just 12.8 minutes in the 53 games he played as a rookie. 

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia

A reliable, engaged defender will quickly earn the trust of an NBA coach. Hunter, a 6-foot-7 guard, will be just that. Thanks, in part, to Tony Bennett, one of the best defensive coaches in college basketball, Hunter has the mentality and fundamentals on that end of the floor to earn minutes immediately.

Ja Morant, Murray State

Few rookies are great scorers in their first year in the league. Figuring how and when to get shots against faster, smarter and more athletic players is no easy feat. Unlike fellow lottery pick Darius Garland, whose game is more scoring-centric, Morant is almost a lock to impact NBA games right away thanks to his playmaking prowess. Morant, a 6-foot-3 guard, may not shoot well as a rookie, but his passing instincts should allow him to lift an offense from the get-go.

Keldon Johnson, Kentucky

With the NBA’s overflowing abundance of perimeter talent, there is a massive need for wing defenders. That means Johnson’s energetic approach on defense will be a welcome addition to the NBA team that drafts him. The 6-foot-6 forward may struggle shooting, but the zest Johnson brings on defense will help him earn playing time as a rookie.

Cameron Johnson, North Carolina

Unlike Keldon Johnson, Cameron will earn minutes  thanks to his prowess on offense. The NBA is in the midst of a three-point bonanza. The 6-foot-9 Johnson, who shot .457 from three last season, is one of the best shooters in the draft. As long as he shows competitiveness on defense, Johnson will make an impact as a rookie.

Grant Williams, Tennessee

Only 20, Williams has a great feel for the game. Thanks to his toughness and smarts, there’s a chance he becomes the plus/minus darling of this year’s rookie class. The 6-foot-7, 236-pounder averaged 15.7 points in three seasons in college.

Eric Paschall, Villanova

A 6-foot-8 forward, Paschall has limitations, but there is no denying he’s a tough, competitive player in a grown man’s body. Although he will have rough moments offensively, Paschall’s defensive effort and physicality will give him a chance to play in a rotation immediately.

Admiral Schofield, Tennessee

Schofield is similar to Paschall. Though he’s knocked for his bully-ball style of scoring and lack of a position, Schofield is a highly competitive player with a frame (6-foot-6, 241 pounds)  ready to handle NBA veterans. Schofield may need time to dial in his outside shot -- he shot .387 from behind the arc in college --  but once he does, he'll stick in a rotation as a rookie.

Terence Davis, Mississippi

Following a solid final season at Ole Miss, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard impressed with a scoring display during the NBA Combine. No matter how the game changes, buckets are still a commodity. A four-year college player, Davis has the size, athleticism and scoring punch to break into an NBA rotation as a rookie.

Zylan Cheatham, Arizona State

It’s easy to assume Cheatham is on this list solely due to his maturity (he’ll be 24 when the season starts) and freakish athleticism. But in some ways, the 6-foot-8 forward's athletic feats overshadow his outstanding overall game. Cheatham is an underrated passer, canny cutter and versatile defender with a high basketball IQ. Combine that with his mental and physical maturity and there’s a good chance Cheatham will be a rookie glue guy.

Related slideshow: NBA mock draft (Provided by Yardbarker)


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